Al-Awwad: Effective media needed to counter challenges

IINA converted into ‘Union of News Agencies’


Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad has underscored the need to further strengthen the role of the media in the Islamic world in confronting various challenges and threats, especially terrorism, Islamophobia and hate speech.

“It is inevitable that our media give utmost attention to address the issues facing the Islamic Ummah by playing a responsible role to uphold truth and articulate the concerns of people in the member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” Al-Awwad said while stressing the need for the highest degree of professionalism and objectivity while covering events in Islamic societies.

Al-Awwad, who is also chairman of the Executive Council of the International Islamic News Agency (IINA), made the remarks while chairing the 25th meeting of the council in Jeddah Saturday evening. OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, Saudi Press Agency President Abdullah Al-Hussein and IINA Director General Issa Khaireh Robleh also attended the opening session of the council.

The minister also presided over the 5th Session of the General Assembly of IINA at the OIC headquarters on Sunday.

Speaking on the occasion, Al-Awwad announced the transformation of IINA into ‘Union of News Agencies’ of OIC member countries. “This was in line with the decision of the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers from the OIC member states hosted by Saudi Arabia in December 2016,” he said.

OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, Saudi Press Agency President Abdullah Al-Hussein and IINA Director General Issa Khaireh Robleh also addressed the opening session of the General Assembly. The sessions of Executive Council and General Assembly discussed the plan to rejuvenate IINA and adopted many resolutions aimed at enhancing joint media work in the Islamic world.

In his speech at Saturday’s session, Al-Awwad said the Islamic Ummah was passing through difficult circumstances. “We suffer from the dangers of terrorism and extremism in a number of countries, with the penetration of militias, which are attempting to impose their exterior agenda on societies and countries as a whole. Such a scenario makes us look forward to this meeting of IINA as a platform for the development of the Islamic media institutions to a level where they can effectively counter these challenges,” he said.

The minister drew attention to attempts to discredit the humanitarian and relief initiatives being undertaken by the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen as well as to inflict damage on its efforts through misleading information culled from dubious sources. He said that turned out to be the main cause for the suffering of Yemenis and the worsening of their situation.

He also cited the grave challenges posed by the spread of terrorism and hate speech, as well as extremist movements, through the misuse of traditional and new media by supporters and sponsors of terrorism. “These challenges have increased the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of the media in the Islamic world to stand by what is right and to push for joint Islamic media work,” he said while lauding the IINA for doing a commendable work in this regard.

OIC Secretary-General Al-Othaimeen spoke about the pan Islamic body’s ambitious media strategy to effectively handle issues facing the Islamic Ummah along with humanitarian, economic and political causes. “The strategy’s priorities include Palestine and exposing the violations of the Israeli occupation forces, highlighting the moderate and tolerant image of Islam, and presenting various vital issues facing the Islamic Ummah. The OIC is keen on extending all support to IINA, which is the most prominent of its media arms, at this critical juncture where the media has become an arena for conflict of ideas and a fertile ground for extremist organizations and advocates of Islamophobia to distort and harm the sublime Islamic values,” he added.

In his speech, the SPA president hoped that the newly rejuvenated IINA, one of the oldest media organs of OIC, can play a much better role in confronting the challenges facing the Islamic world.

The council meeting approved the appointment of Robleh as Director General of IINA. It also endorsed the agreements signed recently by IINA, including the one to open a training center with the objective of improving the capabilities of media organizations and news agencies in OIC member states, especially in countering terrorism and Islamophobia.